Game Review Roundup: Going Indie on STEAM

For every Gears of War there is a Jazz Jackrabbit that first game from a rookie developer cut their teeth on, a game for them to joke about as they pick up their IAA Lifetime Achievement award at the next DICE Summit. While there was the time that the early efforts of a developer would be as almost impossible to find, digital distributors like Steam are not just delivering the latest Triple-A title, but with the help of its own Greenlight initiative and online fundraising schemes indie developers have the chance to get their first game out on the market. Newsarama took a look at three such games available now to see if someday we could see their developers come onto stage at E3 to thunderous applause and you can tell your Facebook friends that you knew them when.

Cargo Commander

‘Rama Rating 8 out of 10

Faceless corporate inhumanity has clearly taken over for evil kings or alien invaders as the premier existential threat to video game protagonists over the past ten years. Dehumanizing greed or a maniacal commitment to a secular orthodoxy is now a threat to overcome as dangerous as any fire-breathing dragon of legend. It's that idea that sets the gameplay of Serious Brew's Cargo Commander in motion. In it you are the sole occupant of an isolated deep space platform tasked with clearing out sector after sector of salvage at great personal peril in order to make enough money for you and your bosses that you can afford to live with your family again.

Grim premise aside, what you have with Cargo Commander is an action platformer that plays tricks with gravity and the player's sense of perspective. A flick of the magnet switch starts the process of drawing space cargo containers towards you and you must breach them with your drill glove, adapt to their own internal gravity (which could be 180 degrees different from where you came from) and clear them out of useful junk while dispatching any hostile lifeforms that have taken up residence. You must do this successfully a number of times, without the area-clearing wormhole sucking you into oblivion, to earn a pass to go on to the next sector. While the story mode is there for you to earn money for powerups and reach your goal, the real challenge is based on sharing new automatically randomized sectors with friends to compete for a higher score.

If can handle the screen spinning around and have enough situational awareness to remember which way is truly “up, ” Cargo Commander's fast-paced play will deliver a sharp challenge and its wry sense of humor keeps the bleak tone of the premise light. The game is further complemented by a folksy soundtrack and a visual design, including contextual audio that helps the game conveys how big and lonely this universe is when coupled with a simple zoom out.

Much more than just Load Runner in space, Cargo Commander is fun and addictive.

Primal Carnage

Rama Rating 7 out of 10

Having two teams consisting of identical characters that are only differentiated by the color they wear seems like the only logical way to make a class-based online multiplayer shooter. However Lukewarm Media’s Primal Carnage tweaks this formula just a little and it makes a ton of difference. Sure one team can be loaded up with machine gun wielding toughs or camping snipers, but where is it written that a player on the other side can’t choose to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex?

The Jurassic Park-esce plot is inconsequential, it’s just enough to say that the dinosaurs are back and a team of mercenaries have been hired to contain them in a series of team deathmatches. The thunder lizard side is represented by five creatures including the whole-person swallowing Tyrannosaurus, the quick Novaraptor and the flying Pteranodon, while the humans are represented by five classes including the machine gunning Commando, the Trapper with his net gun & stab attack, the flamethrowing Pyromaniac and the Pathfinder with his shotgun and flares that can blind opposing players.

While the depth of the game is extraordinarily shallow, with Team Deathmatch being the only mode available thus far, it’s remarkable how well balanced the game is. While it is instantly more desirable to play on a team full of dinosaurs that can use their natural abilities like flight, speed, poison spit or an enemy locating  echolocation, the humans are no slouches either. Since the world is human scale, there are plenty of locations to escape from a large creature or set up an ambush with your teammates. Other little touches like enrich the experience: the humans can use first aid stations to restore health, but for the other team the corpses of hapless herbivores provide a similar effect.

The man on man action of Team Fortress 2 remains very popular and has made a ton of money for Valve. It took it years to change its formula in a way that barely mirrors what Primal Carnage is trying to do at launch. Don’t be surprised if you can buy a hat for your Carnotaurus before too long.

Gemini Wars

‘Rama Rating 4 out of 10

Is StarCraft: Heart of the Swarm  too far off and Star Wars: Empire at War just not doing it for you anymore? Then Camel101's Gemini Wars, just released for Steam, might scratch that itch by testing your strategic construction and tactical battle skills in a three way war in the vast, vast void of space. That is of course, if what you are truly looking for ships gliding slowly through space on the way to blow up other ships or being blown up themselves. If that's the case, then you are in for a treat with Gemini Wars.

Depth, both literally and figuratively, isn't much of a factor here. Despite the illusion that battles can take place in three dimensions, the action is limited to a 2D plane as if space was an ocean where battling factions can be separated by distances that can be measured in astronomical units. This distance slows the game’s action down considerably and even though there is a ‘jump drive’ mechanic that can accelerate your ships between planetary bodies or asteroid fields, the range is not unlimited and there is a recharge delay. Since this is the only practical way to move your pieces around it severely limits your deployment strategy.

Technical faults also hamper the experience, crafts of all factions lack any sense of visual uniqueness, the pathfinding AI will have your ships bumping into each other/getting in each other’s way as you try to maneuver them effectively and the game’s cut-scenes, scripting and voice work are generations out of date.

Gemini Wars at best has a home-brew feel, but lacks any of charm that could make up for its lack of innovation and polish.

Twitter activity